Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Philip Glass's Orphée at English National Opera

Jean Cocteau’s 1950 Orphée - and Philip Glass’s chamber opera based on the film - are so closely intertwined it should not be a surprise that this new production for English National Opera often seems unable to distinguish the two. There is never a shred of ambiguity that cinema and theatre are like mirrors, a recurring feature of this production; and nor is there much doubt that this is as opera noir it gets.

Rapt audience at Dutch National Opera’s riveting Walküre

“Don’t miss this final chance – ever! – to see Die Walküre”, urges the Dutch National Opera website.

Sarah Wegener sings Strauss and Jurowski’s shattering Mahler

A little under a month ago, I reflected on Vladimir Jurowski’s tempi in Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’. That willingness to range between extremes, often within the same work, was a very striking feature of this second concert, which also fielded a Mahler symphony - this time the Fifth. But we also had a Wagner prelude and Strauss songs to leave some of us scratching our heads.

Manon Lescaut in San Francisco

Of the San Francisco Opera Manon Lescauts (in past seasons Leontyne Price, Mirella Freni, Karita Mattila among others, all in their full maturity) the latest is Armenian born Parisian finished soprano Lianna Haroutounian in her role debut. And Mme. Haroutounian is surely the finest of them all.

A lukewarm performance of Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette from the LSO and Tilson Thomas

A double celebration was the occasion for a packed house at the Barbican: the 150th anniversary of Berlioz’s birth, alongside Michael Tilson Thomas’s fifty-year association with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Mahler’s Third Symphony launches Prague Symphony Orchestra's UK tour

The Anvil in Basingstoke was the first location for a strenuous seven-concert UK tour by the Prague Symphony Orchestra - a venue-hopping trip, criss-crossing the country from Hampshire to Wales, with four northern cities and a pit-stop in London spliced between Edinburgh and Nottingham.

Rigoletto past, present and future: a muddled production by Christiane Lutz for Glyndebourne Touring Opera

Charlie Chaplin was a master of slapstick whose rag-to-riches story - from workhouse-resident clog dancer to Hollywood legend with a salary to match his status - was as compelling as the physical comedy that he learned as a member of Fred Karno’s renowned troupe.

Rinaldo Through the Looking-Glass: Glyndebourne Touring Opera in Canterbury

Robert Carsen’s production of Rinaldo, first seen at Glyndebourne in 2011, gives a whole new meaning to the phrases ‘school-boy crush’ and ‘behind the bike-sheds’.

Predatory power and privilege in WNO's Rigoletto at the Birmingham Hippodrome

At a party hosted by a corrupt and dissolute political leader, wealthy patriarchal predators bask in excess, prowling the room on the hunt for female prey who seem all too eager to trade their sexual favours for the promise of power and patronage. ‘Questa o quella?’ the narcissistic host sings, (this one or that one?), indifferent to which woman he will bed that evening, assured of impunity.

Virginie Verrez captivates in WNO's Carmen at the Birmingham Hippodrome

Jo Davies’ new production of Carmen for Welsh National Opera presents not the exotic Orientalism of nineteenth-century France, nor a tale of the racial ‘Other’, feared and fantasised in equal measure by those whose native land she has infiltrated.

Die Zauberflöte brings mixed delights at the Royal Opera House

When did anyone leave a performance of Mozart’s Singspiel without some serious head scratching?

Haydn's La fedeltà premiata impresses at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama

‘Exit, pursued by an octopus.’ The London Underground insignia in the centre of the curtain-drop at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama’s Silk Street Theatre, advised patrons arriving for the performance of Joseph Haydn’s La fedeltà premiata (Fidelity Rewarded, 1780) that their Tube journey had terminated in ‘Arcadia’ - though this was not the pastoral idyll of Polixenes’ Bohemia but a parody of paradise more notable for its amatory anarchy than any utopian harmony.

Van Zweden conducts an unforgettable Walküre at the Concertgebouw

When native son Jaap van Zweden conducts in Amsterdam the house sells out in advance and expectations are high. Last Saturday, he returned to conduct another Wagner opera in the NTR ZaterdagMatinee series. The Concertgebouw audience was already cheering the maestro loudly before anyone had played a single note. By the end of this concert version of Die Walküre, the promise implicit in the enthusiastic greeting had been fulfilled. This second installment of Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung was truly memorable, and not just because of Van Zweden’s imprint.

Purcell for our time: Gabrieli Consort & Players at St John's Smith Square

Passing the competing Union and EU flags on College Green beside the Palace of Westminster on my way to St John’s Smith Square, where Paul McCreesh’s Gabrieli Consort & Players were to perform Henry Purcell’s 1691 'dramatic opera' King Arthur, the parallels between England now and England then were all too evident.

The Dallas Opera Cockerel: It’s All Golden

I greatly enjoyed the premiere of The Dallas Opera’s co-production with Santa Fe Opera of Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel when it debuted at the latter in the summer festival of 2018.

Luisa Miller at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second production of the current season Lyric Opera of Chicago is featuring Giuseppe Verdi’s Luisa Miller.

Philip Glass: Music with Changing Parts - European premiere of revised version

Philip Glass has described Music with Changing Parts as a transitional work, its composition falling between earlier pieces like Music in Fifths and Music in Contrary Motion (both written in 1969), Music in Twelve Parts (1971-4) and the opera Einstein on the Beach (1975). Transition might really mean aberrant or from no-man’s land, because performances of it have become rare since the very early 1980s (though it was heard in London in 2005).

Wexford Festival Opera 2019

The 68th Wexford Festival Opera, which runs until Sunday 3rd November, is bringing past, present and future together in ways which suggest that the Festival is in good health, and will both blossom creatively and stay true to its roots in the years ahead.

Cenerentola, jazzed to the max

Seattle Opera’s current staging of Cenerentola is mostly fun to watch. It is also a great example of how trying too hard to inflate a smallish work to fill a huge auditorium can make fun seem more like work.

Bottesini’s Alì Babà Keeps Them Laughing

On Friday evening October 25, 2019, Opera Southwest opened its 47th season with composer Giovanni Bottesini and librettist Emilio Taddei’s Alì Babà in a version reconstructed from the original manuscript score by Conductor Anthony Barrese.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla [Photo by Benjamin Ealovega]
01 Dec 2016

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

A review by David Pinedo

Above: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla [Photo by Benjamin Ealovega]

 

After her grace and intelligent allure tonight, I expect her to inspire lots of women. She has taken over the reigns at CBSO, a terrific orchestra that the London orchestras unfairly overshadow. In preparation for her concert performance of Idomeneo with an all star cast next Summer, I wanted to find out what she could do with Haydn and Mahler at her official Welcome Concert. She did not disappoint!

Ms Gražinytė-Tyla certainly proves herself already to have great synergy with her new orchestra. She carries a modest, but confident air, and inspires her orchestra with her ferocious passion honed by an utterly refined elegance. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla proved herself a sensational conductor superlatively fit to follow in the legendary footsteps of Andris Nelsons, Sakari Oramo, and Simon Rattle. One can only imagine how this collaboration will grow over time.

As new Music Director, she had her first official concert in Birmingham. After I experienced Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s performance with Chamber Orchestra of Europe in Lucerne, she had dazzled me, and I needed to hear more. There, she made Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony come to life with a freshness and contagious energy with which she similarly infused Haydn’s ‘Le Matin’ Symphony tonight. Unlike some other female conductors she does not butch up her act. Her free-flowing authentic musicianship emerges from her feminine grace, not some imitation of a man conducting. Her mannerisms remind me of Barbara Hannigan, but without any provocative presentation.

The evening opened with the U.K. premiere of Raminta Šerkšnytė’s Fires. At the Lucerne concert, Ms. Gražinytė-Tyla introduced the audiences there to De Profundis, A haunting piece that excited me for more by this Lithuanian composer. Fires makes part of a series of pieces that tackle the forces of nature (Iceberg Symphony, Mountains in the Mist, Glow).

In continuous harmony, several different motifs fluctuate through rhythms, various densities of textures, and an assortment of timbres. On a slow burning, thick texture of strings, Fires contains rhythms from some remarkable percussive piano playing by James Keefe moving back and forth between a celesta. Slowly intensifying, rarified strings overlap in different clusters to create a luscious, breathing mass. I quite enjoyed it.

Gražinytė-Tyla conducted Haydn’s Symphony No. 6 in D major in her black, sleeveless pant suit without baton. Her directions flowed from her fingertips with the elegant determination and gestures of a ballerina. She was delightful to behold. Pleasure visible on her face, she controls the orchestra but does not constrict her musicians. You could see they were dedicated to play for her at their best. Truly a terrific orchestra characterized by its joie de vivre, communal spirit in play, deep musicianship, and altogether fiery passion.

The reduced set-up of strings and standing wind soloists made for an intimate collaboration. In particular the concertmaster Frank Stadler made his violin sing during his moving solos. Solo flautist Marie-Christine Zupancic even managed to get some loud laughter from the audience during the comical moments with her bird calls as well as in the finale Allegro.

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra is one of the best in Great Britain. Perhaps the best, if the London organisations weren’t as high profile. I have heard the LSO with Gergiev, the LPO with Eschenbach and Ticciati, but to me they were nothing compared to what I heard in Birmingham.

The CBSO reminds me of how in the Netherlands, the Rotterdam Philharmonic under its PC Yannick Nézet-Séguin has to deal with the historical esteem for the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Over the past few years that orchestra often performed more memorable concerts with more intensity than the RCO, but don’t mention this to anyone in Amsterdam.

The meat of the evening came with a vibrant rendition of Mahler’s First Symphony. Transparency elucidated the layers of each section in the first movement while our conductor sustained a titanium tension that became the backbone of Mahler’s “Creation of Earth”. She ruled with a baton this time, highlighting the shrill contrast from the horns within the warmer textures, resulting in goosebumps galore.

In the Scherzo her expressive gestures took control. With her talent for cohesion of all sections, she creates a communal spirit producing an enormous momentum. She energised Mahler’s Ländler, to which she could not resist some charmingly joyful jumps and hip swaying. Something she would take to another level during the stormy finale.

Mahler’s take on “Frères Jacques” proved our conductor could also deliver pianissimo passages. She injected them with a delicate, taut suspense. After this, she immediately launched into the final movement. She conducted with all the nuances one hopes to hear in this furious ending. The audience ended with a wild ovation. I was surprised at how the British lost their composure to such a jubilant degree.

Still recovering from the shock of the American election loss and seriously disheartened by Ms. Clinton’s failure to win, I felt highly inspired by Ms. Gražinytė-Tyla. This woman is successfully breaking through barriers by redefining conducting in her own way, without breaking from tradition. She takes the stuffy masculinity expected in conducting, dispenses of it, and replaces it with her own intelligence and freshness.

“Let’s be proud together of this incredible orchestra,” Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla encouraged the Birmingham audience, before the encore of a Lithuanian piece ended the evening. She spoke with conviction and seemed completely at home in her new position with the CBSO. Beyond her musical talent, she presents a positive role model for women in our discombobulating world. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla truly is a beacon of hope.

If you are in England. Go visit Birmingham. It’s only an hour north of London. Just as diverse, but far less sprawling. On June 24, she will conduct Mozart’s Idomeneo. It will surely be a high point in this musical season.

David Pinedo

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):